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Whether you are dealing with a commercial payer, Medicare, or Medicaid, there are certain types of improper claims that should be avoided if you want to reduce your risk of a medical coding audit. That bit of wisdom comes from an entity that ought to know: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The OIG has released a roadmap to help new physicians avoid medical billing fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. But this advice also broadly applies to how you approach reimbursement from commercial payers, and can also serve as a helpful reminder for physicians with years of experience in practice.
The agency warns, sternly, about consequences, noting in bold type that “when the federal government covers items or services rendered to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, the federal fraud and abuse laws apply.”
When it comes to medical coding errors, the broad categories of “fraud” and “abuse” have distinct meanings. Fraud involves intentional misrepresentation. Abuse means “the falsification was an innocent mistake, but nonetheless representative,” according to the AMA’s Principles of CPT® Coding, ninth edition.
Fraud. Scary word, right? Well it happens a lot, and if you are not careful it might be happening at your practice right now. “Get a free scooter!” You may remember those words uttered on a commercial that ran continuously a few years back. In August of 2014, the Washington Post broke a story on how the government paid billions of dollars for Medicare recipients to get a free motorized wheelchair. The perpetrators of this scam were intentionally defrauding the government by using loopholes to make huge profits on markups for these chairs.
The wheelchair scam example is an outlier, but it is what most people think about when the topic of fraud is brought to the forefront, but that is just one high profile case. There are many instances of unintentional errors that can occur due to lack of understanding of the many regulations and nuances of medical billing. Consider auditing your providers for compliance and finding opportunities for improvement.
Here are 4 reasons why: